Friday, August 29, 2014


So with this review comes something of a confession. Up until now, I have owned/do own/listened to every Siouxsie and the Banshees album except one... This one. Why? Take a look at the sleeve? It's shit. The only one I can think of that's as annoying is in its (similar) shitness is This Heat's 'Deceit' which I don't listen to for the same reason. Yes, it really is possible to be this stubborn and shallow: Owning a copy of Ju Ju would make the rest of my records look shitter by proxy. Which is a shame because it's not only fucking awesome but contender for the bands best album.

Obviously, Spellbound the opener I already knew as a single. Yeah, not bad but not 'Melt'. "Into the Night' however the following track - Holy fucking shit. It's perfect. That's not a statement I make too often. Other perfect songs include Magazine's 'Song From Under the Floorboards', MC5's 'Looking at You', Glenn Campbell's 'Wichita Lineman', there's maybe ten or so more. 'Arabian Knights' is fucking killer as well. I listened to this for the first time one night a couple of weeks back via a digital device whilst virtual record shopping from my kitchen. Before I get completely carried away by the music I do need to go back to that sleeve. What is going on? Some bollocks statue head thing surrounded by bits of torn up negative sheet music. Oooh, must have taken somebody the whole of two minutes to come up with that. On reading this is generally regarded as the band's second best album, such a shame it was landed with such god awful packaging, especially when you think of what came next the sleeve to 'A Kiss in the Dreamhouse' is great.

'Monitor' is utterly fucking killer. This is great. I'm listening to it now, something from 1981 that I am now hearing for the third time ever and it's fantastic. What a treat. I'm having an adventure. It's so nice when this happens.... Song fades, guitar kicks back in for a reprise at the midway point. 'Monitor' reminds me of Big Black's 'Kerosene' and something by that other band Placebo. I'm kind of pissed off that they didn't spend more time on the artwork. Underestimating the importance of the album sleeve is an almost unforgivable sin. It's an extension of your manifesto, your reason for being as a band. You are truly misguided if you believe it's just about the music. You can only stand for so much with the audio product. The branding, the band name, the choice of press shots, album artwork, relationship with the press, that's just as big, if not bigger. Nobody is just about the music.

Give it up for 'Night Shift' as well. Side 2 is just as moody as everything that came before it. The second side stands up well given that both singles came early in the proceedings. There isn't a dud on here... Assuming you don't include the sleeve which I would rate as -6 out of 10 at best. Curse me for being so empty and aesthetically driven if I were a little more forgiving of bollocks record sleeves this could have been in my life years ago.


'Boogie, boogie, boogie!' The opening line of James Brown's 'Take a Look at Those Cakes' says it all. Here is a man fresh out of ideas and at the dawn of what is officially known as his 'Wank period'. The saxophone flourish that follows however says different, the beat as well. There are similarities to Ornette Coleman's 'Times Square' and at a stretch I could even try and sell this too you as James Brown's long lost 'No Wave' album, but it's not. It's a happy accident at best.

So, James Brown. I believe there's a biopic on it's way to a cinema near you as I type. It'll be interesting to see how closely it examines the part of his career where he started to look just like my nan - From his freakishly wide face to his Umpalumpa perm. By 1978 the guy was well on his way to being a fucking car crash... As well as grand mother impersonator. Not to say any of this is to the detriment of what I am listening to as I type away on my grubby keyboard.

'Take at Look at Those Cakes' is not a paean to Delia Smith or any other culinary goddess for that matter. It's about big, fat round arses. During the title track James asks numerous fellow musicians if they can 'see' those cakes. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder etc. Idea being that said arses in question are so utterly compelling, nay mouthwatering that they somehow also have the ability to cure blindness and potentially other crippling diseases. 

'Stephen Hawking! Can you see those cakes?'

If you look at the above sleeve you can see that Brown is utterly transfixed but the cakes are facing the wrong way... WAIT! Unless 'Cakes' is vagina? I mean, I suppose it could be, but I am sticking with my original observation and the understanding that a cake is in fact a bottom and not anything else. Where Brown James still alive it would be great to get a definitive answer on exactly what said 'cake' was and where cake ended and flat out female genitalia began. 

The second track is shit. 'A Man Understands' is bad yacht rock funk. In fairness expecting earth shattering funk from anything in 1978 is a bit of an ask. The entire genre was well and truly fucked by that point this record being a case in point - You can almost see 'funk' disappearing up it's own arse. Maybe that's what the cartoon James Brown is waiting for on his ambitious silver sofa? 

'Someone to Talk To' is late nite latter day soul, totally inoffensive if not a tad repetitive but then that was kind of JB's thing wasn't it coming across like he had OCD saying the same line, word or phrase over and over again. Anyway, there' nothing wrong with this at all, it's just massively sleep inducing and not massively inspiring. 'Spring' the penultimate track is also pretty average, it keeps suggesting it might go somewhere but ultimately any or all efforts are thwarted by apathy - It's a filler track. He has a title and he's nailed the opening track. If you are still awake by this point it's because a.) you are being polite or b.) you only have one record.

Mercifully the album ends after five tracks. The closer 'As Long As I Love You' is alright. He says 'As Long As I Love You' approximately 128 times in the space of eight minutes which is pretty impressive. It makes me wonder what an Alan Vega / James Brown collab might have sounded like. 

So, you don't need to get this album. I do because I am obsessed with bottoms and am at least temporarily under the misguided impression that this might well be one of the greatest record sleeves ever conceived. Why, oh why didn't they stretch to a gate-fold?

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I was going through my phone and found pictures of a couple of records shops that used to be local to my old work... When I had a job. Both On The Beat and JBs were on Hanway Street, that dodgy and looking back alley that acts as a short cut from Tottenham Court Road to Oxford Street. It was always handy if you wanted to avoid walking directly past that tasteless giant golden statue of that cunt Freddie Mercury. Anyway. I never went into On The Beat, well no, I did but it was during one of my 'what's the fucking point' phases so the flicking was heavy going and any kind of appraisal of the stock (which judging by the window was re-pro heavy) or owner would be unfair. Always looked authentic and right now I am kicking myself under my crayon stained and fork stabbed farmhouse styles pine kitchen table because right now I am back in the game to the point where a cardboard box on the floor at the back of Help the Children looks a lot like it might have some gold in it.

JB's... John Bonham? Jon Bon Jovi? Judas Briest? ...Sigh, it's going to have been James Brown related isn't it? 'For Goodness Sakes, take a look at those cakes'. Nothing like being obvious. James fucking Brown, anyway JB's was always a bit 'Meh'. I went in once due to something in the window that again turned out to be a repress. Lots of that business. Anyway, both gone now but whatever. The real reason for going down Hanway street was never the record shops, it was the illegal drinking establishment that used to open stupid late midweek. Not sure if that's gone or not, my ability for spastical midweek drinking activities certainly has.


Funky Dollar bill y'all, US Dollar Bill! So, Haggle Vinyl, at last we meet. This is one of those places that get's mentioned from time to time for a number or reasons, not all of them positive. I got there on foot from hip and also happening Dalston, it looked a lot closer on my iPhone. Anyway, this place. This place! It absolutely looks like it's going to be the best record shop ever....Until you get up close to the window or walls. Unfortunately the pictures I took don't really do the lack of decent records any justice. What they do show is a particularly jolly fellow who most definitely owns and runs the joint. How can you not love that welcoming smile! Yes we have no records (of particular interest) but what a welcome. 

I'm being a little harsh, there were one or two bits (nothing exceptional) but things that I might have considered (had I not already got them)... If they had been priced accordingly. The word I would use is 'ambitions' or 'over book'. I didn't try but maybe that's why it's called 'haggle' vinyl? You start with an outrageous price on the table and barter down to something closer to Record Collector.

Anyway, I don't want to be too harsh because despite the endless 'RARE' signs pointing to nothing it appears the shop is closing by the end of the year and whilst this isn't the greatest record store on the planet it is a record store and if memory serves shit sex is better than no sex... or is it the other way round? Either way, this smells like a proper record shop (in a good way) and is run by the quirky chap in the picture closer to the top. I believe he is some kind of self styled local celeb (See below pictures from window - This also gives you an idea of the level of 'radness' in the shop - Pam Ayers) and I have no doubt that this far end of Essex Road will be that much duller when this shop closes.

It's on leaving very empty handed that I notice another interesting little quirk...

Oh Henry! Now I have no idea who this guy but wow. Here we see his entire CV uploaded from Linked In and pasted on the window of his former employer with what (regardless of circumstances) amounts to a slanderous allegation regarding something that happened five or more years ago. Are we to think that the mild mannered eccentric record shop owner has a darker side? Is he blaming the demise of his shop on this one employee? Who knows? I'd like to say 'who cares' but I can't because I do, because the only thing better than gossip is record store gossip.

So, hat's off in advance to the end of an era, regardless of whether this was a decent record shop or not.

Swiftly, and I do mean swiftly I pelted it down the road to Flashback Records. Yaaaay! Stuff to buy, things that whilst I don't need, I do want. See, I like what Flashback do. They keep the shit outside, in the rain, where it belongs... Where people can piss on it.

We didn't get off to the best start and this was entirely due to me. Not currently use to the company of others (children and wife aside) I marched into the shop camera phone held high snapping away. This was super not cool. You can tell by the look on stripy girl's face...

'Fuck you! Camera phone!' ...And she's right. Well, kind of right, I mean it's a look that would have been more appropriate had I accidentally trodden on her collection of Field Mice 7"s

''You've scuffed the sleeve of my copy of 'I Can See Myself Alone Forever!''

Whatever. I get it. I'm sorry. Hopefully I made up for things by leaving my dickness at the door and leaving with mad records in hand... Or rather very stylish Flashback Tote-bag. Fucking yes.  (Luc Ferrari, Percussions of Strasbourg, the first Clay Rendering 12")

Flashback is pretty cool. Upstairs they have everything you could possibly need new shit wise. Closest thing I can think of to it is probably Other Music in NYC. Downstairs is where the good stuff is. I think they were having a bit of an off day when I was in there because the only two things that really got me hot that I couldn't buy were a copy of that Don Cherry album I was slagging off and a Dutch pressing of Skip Spence's 'Oar'. Even so it was nice to let my fingers do some walking and not have them feel bad dirty afterwards.

Here we see some guy that looks like Charles Ng on the listening deck. To the right of him the Dutch 'Oar'. FYI this version has a laminated sleeve. I did think I'd walked into Conrad Schnitzler heaven with that back wall but no, they are just doing that thing that the Berwick Street MVE does (colour matching sleeves).

Anyway, how am I doing? How is Record Shop Day TM shaping up? Yeah, pretty good. It helps that I've added to the bag and am no longer just flapping a mere two records around in a stylish but see through Kristina carrier bag. it's funny but a decade ago Flashback wasn't really on my radar. I was spoiled for choice. Now it's officially one of the better stores in our fair Capitol. Bidding farewell to the gent behind the counter after a most pleasant but brief chat about the lack of windows in the shop and effects of lack of sunlight I leave, taking special care to thank the lady in stripes on the way out.

Next, a shit filled splutter in Waterloo and final sprint past the finishing line in Soho...

Yaay for Record Shop Day (Not affiliated in any way with Record Store Day).

Saturday, August 16, 2014


So, at a loose end following an aborted music festival (cheers ATP) last night I decided to do something, anything today other than staring at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror shouting 'you're a failure, you're a failure' over and over until it's time to check my empty inbox again.

Then the idea bit me. I should go record shopping! But not just go record shopping, also make a day of it. Maybe turn this purposeful pilgrimage into a regular annual thing... a 'record shop day'. Imagine that. A day, say maybe once a year dedicated to record shops, records and record shopping. Thus 'Record Shop Day' was born.

Record Shop Day started badly. After arriving promptly at 11.00am at my first store of the day 'Kristina Records' of Dalston, London, I find it won't open for another hour. Far from disheartened I head to the second shop on my list 'Eldica'. Thankfully the kind sir and I am assuming owner of Eldica is at least good enough to open at a sensible, real world time. It does make me wonder if Alan of the famous 'Alan's Records' isn't running an illegal card game for record shop employees that goes on long into the small hours.

Eldica is more of a brick-a-brac slash record store. Interestingly enough one corner of the store smells like somebody has slashed on said bric-a-brac and records. Unless its me. In my unemployed state it is entirely possible that the pissy stench is eminating from my badly dried t-shirt. Smelling myself I lay the blame squarely at the pile of 7"s in the corner. (Which reminds me of the time I actually did piss on a large pile of 7"s out the back of a record shop I worked in many moons ago, about an hour later I found a friend chiseling through them and wiping the 'rain' on his sleeve. Sorry Ben.)

Anyway, friendly enough nod from the proprietor, on the way in my hopes are high-ish. Not much in the way of order to the stock. Every divider appears to read '60s Soul' or '70s jazz'. I find and chisel the 'new in' section. Not bad, it's a mix of soul, jazz, second grade 12"s, interesting looking library titles and the odd early electronic album. Whilst I don't feel compelled to buy anything I am happy that good things have been and gone through these racks.

Eldica is I assume a destination for 'crate diggers' and or 'beat pilferers', rather than people who say actually listen to 'rock' and or 'pop'. The first clue is the positioning of such sections under the racks, on the floor and difficult to get to. That's okay. If everybody liked Indie the second Raincoats album would be even more expensive than it currently is.

I return my nod and leave.

After a suitably hipster breakfast (I know it's a hipster breakfast because the food to price ratio is way off and the waiter first calls me 'man' and then 'dude'. Man dude.) Shortly after this Kristina is finally open for business. It's very amiss of me to have not ventured here before now, not least because this is one of the few record stores to have opened in the last few years rather than, y'know, closing.

Before the customary critisization of the stock a little about the store: it's lovely. Basic plywood fittings, concrete floor, clean and very easy to shop. Design wise it takes its cues from much of Williamsburgs new wave of retail, presenting itself as unpretentious and plain, with the added bonus of having an environment that should, if maintained properly never smell like COB records.

Stock wise its got enough highlights to have me mildly hyperventilating. There is little in the way of full medical emergency but the Daniel Johnston and Bikini Kill records I swipe from the wall and come away with leave me happy enough.

Dalston has changed so fucking much in the past its literally unreal. Now, often mentioned in the same breath as Brooklyn due to the mix of aforementioned interesting retail, bars, venues and eateries. It used to be utterly horrible, a place to avoid, a dirty rift in the North London landscape like a trench of shit separating two far more desirable and less stabby areas. Now it's the happy home to much of creative London. Good for them, high-fives all around.

I temporarily have a couple of Pastels 12"s and the first Shellac album in my hand but decide that I don't actually need them and given that this is my first stop of the day (technically second) it would be prudent to curtail my spending and spread my finances more evenly. I have a pleasant chat with my host, I find myself accidentally saying out loud the words 'techno, techno, techno' far too close to the ear of a young chap browsing the dance music side of the shop. I leave soon after this.

There is a partial sale in Kristina in which they are off-loading much of there new stock. An issue I am assume that derives from the fact that Amazon is loading up with more circular blackness on a daily basis or more specifically US affiliated sellers offering very, very reasonable shipping through said site are successfully undercutting not just the UK high street but also Normans Records and Boomkat. I'm as guilty as anyone and always buy from the cheapest vendor. Anyway, this appears to be the side effect. Three, no four racks dedicated to off-loading newly released music. The other minor downside to the shop is the huge amount of space dedicated to 'rave' music or whatever you want to call it this week. 

Either way, I'd be glad to call Kristina my local, it would be fantastic if such an outlet magically appeared more close to my home. I need somewhere to hang out and look mildly deranged whilst muttering insults at people buying Adamski (?) records.

NEXT: Haggle Vinyl, Gramex, JBs and more...